Making Cooperation a Dream Realized: Local history book will be republished

Making Cooperation a Dream

I wonder, however, if anyone would really be interested. Yeah, I’m fishing for comments… (Jay O’Connell, author)

I’ve been thinking about a particular word lately. “Cooperation.” Cooperation is certainly key in getting us through these current days of social isolation and economic hardship. Cooperation will still be vital in the coming years, as we are forced to adapt to the many cultural changes that will ensue.

Co-Operation then and now
Cooperation is sometimes hard. It isn’t always the first thing human nature lands on. We’ve all heard of the fight-or-flight response to danger. It is an animal instinct we will never completely evolve beyond. But ultimately, we all yearn for cooperation, as that is the thing that makes us human. Making Cooperation a Dream

Cooperation is our higher selves transcending animal instinct. Only cooperation can lead us to being a superior species, to finding our better angels. It is, therefore, key to our success as a society. But sadly, it is sometimes only a dream.

There have been times in history when that dream has failed. And so, I’ve been thinking about cooperation. Which leads to an earlier contemplation on the inherent difficulties the dream of cooperation presents. Making C

It’s been more than 20 years since Co-Operative Dreams: A History of the Kaweah Colony was published. And while there have been attempts to get the book, which tells not only the story of the ill-fated Kaweah Colony but also the establishment of Sequoia National Park, reissued by university presses or niche publishing houses, it has been out of print for more than a decade.

It has been suggested that it be published as an e-book, or even as an audiobook, but that has heretofore not been accomplished. To read the book, one either has to check it out from a public library or be lucky enough to find a used copy online.

What lies in store for Co-Operative Dreams? Before any plans on the book’s future are considered, I thought a look back at how the book came to be might be in order.

Colony obsession
I’m not sure when I became so interested in (okay, obsessed with) the Kaweah Colony, a bunch of socialists (okay, old-timey hippies) up North Fork way back in the 1880s. I never really studied history in college. I was a Lit major / Drama nerd. Making Cooperation a Dream

I really only got interested in history listening to Irish rebel ballads and tipping pints (numerous pints) of Guinness across Ireland back in the ’80s (the 1980s!). No history I’d ever heard about was as dramatic, romantic, exciting, and entertaining as Irish history. While perhaps due to the rebel songs and Guinness, I do remember thinking back then that I wish there were stories that cool from history a little closer to home.

Kaweah, it turns out, was a lot closer to home. In 1995, I published a magazine article entitled “Kaweah! A Dream’s Demise” in The Californians, a now-defunct magazine of California history. It was that same year that John and Sarah bought the Sequoia Sentinel and changed the name to The Kaweah Commonwealth. I counseled against rechristening it as such. Even though I have described myself as philosophically “slightly left of Karl Marx,” I thought the name might have too Marxist a connotation for local readership.

Making Cooperation a Dream
The author speaking about the Kaweah Colony at a Tulare County Historical Society event.

For the first several years of the new Kaweah Commonwealth, I wrote a history column that focused on the Kaweah Colony. I started giving talks about the Colony, and enlisted the help of local thespians, Steve and Elizabeth LaMar, for some presentations. I even got Huell Howser interested in doing a segment on Kaweah for California’s Gold, but at the last minute we had to postpone.

At one point, the local historical society approached me about turning the column (we did nearly 100 “Colony Corner” installments just on the Colony) into a book as a fundraiser. Intrigued, I did some marketing analysis and wrote up a proposed budget to produce a book. I think the number was a little high and followed by more zeroes than they had anticipated. But with the idea planted, I pressed on as a solo endeavor. Making Cooperation a Dream


Birth of a book
Looking back, I only went a couple thousand dollars over budget, but was able to produce the book I’d envisioned and launch a small publishing company, Raven River Press. Co-Operative Dreams, which debuted in late 1999, did a little better than I expected. Making Cooperation a Dream


Making Cooperation a Dream

I was fortunate to get academic traction and strong library sales, thanks to some positive scholarly reviews. I also received ample regional support from local retailers, historical societies, and especially the Sequoia Natural History Association (present-day Sequoia Parks Conservancy), where it sold consistently for several years. Ultimately, the project broke even. Barely. Making Cooperation a Dream

Now long “out of print,” I have literally only two copies in my possession, and one of those has crayon scribbles all over it (thanks J.P.). I’ve been asked about a second printing. No. That, I’m sure, would lose money. I’ve no interest in losing money. But I also have no misconceptions about making any money on the book (unless someone out there wants to option the movie rights).

Required reading
I only want people to have an opportunity to read it. I suspect in the years since Co-Operative Dreams fell out of print, there could be people new to Three Rivers curious about what happened up North Fork back in the old days.

There might be recent transplants or visitors interested to learn just how Sequoia National Park came to be and the corporation that surprisingly had a hand in its creation. Maybe those folks are even willing to indulge me at my most book-length, long-windedness.

Plans are now underway to possibly serialize Co-Operative Dreams in 3 Rivers News (indeed, as the book about the 19 century was born in the pages of The Kaweah Commonwealth in the 20th century, a rebirth online in 3 Rivers News in the 21st century seems fitting). And maybe I’ll publish it as an e-book on Amazon.

I wonder, however, if anyone would really be interested. Yeah, I’m fishing for comments! Can I get a little cooperation out there?


Read these other 3R News series by Jay O’Connell:

In the Shadow of the Mountain

Sierra Paranormal

Meth, Murder, and Bigfoot: A California Crime Saga

Other books by Jay O’Connell and Raven River Press:





7 thoughts on “Making Cooperation a Dream Realized: Local history book will be republished

  • May 1, 2020 at 6:45 am

    I’d like to see the e-book idea pursued.

  • May 1, 2020 at 7:09 am

    I’m glad to see this book republished. I enjoyed reading it in its first edition. It’s a fascinating story of the history of a colony that was doomed even before it was founded.

    Since I have nothing else to do these days (!) maybe I’ll pull out my copy and read it again!

  • May 1, 2020 at 11:14 am

    OH please approach Audible and record it!

  • May 1, 2020 at 1:09 pm

    Yes Jay. I think it would be a worthwhile project. to republish this book. I know that An E book probably makes more sense in this day and age, but I for one still like to hold a book in my hands..

  • May 2, 2020 at 7:16 am

    Yes, please publish it! I’d make do with an e-book, but I very much want a bound version. I think there would be a market for it given the number of people who visit the museum and ask about the Colony. There are multiple places in town that would sell a bound book!

  • May 4, 2020 at 9:45 am

    Yes, your book should be republished!

    Just located a copy in a relative’s bookcase and read it through. It is a massive trove of history that is vital to the story of Three Rivers, because had it not been for the Colony—would there ever have been a national park at our door, much less a road for the world to access it? The Colonists in a few short years engineered and built a road (railroad grade, no less) to within a few miles of Giant Forest. Can you imagine 1880s Congress or (or 1980s even) doing this? After seizing the roadway from the Colonists, without compensation, Congress most often refused funds to maintain it.

    In designing a reprint, I would respectfully suggest that a subtitle is needed that firmly anchors the story to Three Rivers and Giant Forest (SNP) The original “Co-Operative Dreams, a History of the Kaweah Colony” does not hint at location, and in on-line searches or just perusing a bookshelf in a gift shop, the book needs that “hook” to connect to the eyes of Three Rivers and Sequoia NP visitors form around the world. Likewise, the back cover—put emphasis on the larger-than-life, innovative, industrious citizens added to Three Rivers back then, of “A Giant Forest Preserved”, the accolade by WIlliam C. Tweed, a “ka-pow” photo maybe, plus your author photo with short bio.

    An e-book/ or Amazon ebook, plus paperback, would be quick and inexpensive to produce. Perhaps you would want to consider a larger 8-1/2 x 11 format.

    I will now take time to read through again, slowly, this priceless book you authored.
    In any case, I hope you can get it back in print so I can gift it to others.
    Thank You.

    • May 14, 2020 at 10:19 am

      Hi, Jay. I am right in the middle of re-reading the book because I’m working on an article on the Squatter’s Cabin for the Tulare County Treasures website, and, of course, the cabin’s significance is as a touchstone for the Colony’s story and its significance to TC (and National Park and California and world utopian) history. You did a fabulous job on the book, and it deserves a wider audience. It would make a marvelous movie! All the right ingredients are there, and the locations are still intact (just add tents, rock bars, shovels, period costumes). I was able to get a used copy of the book right away via online ordering when I discovered that at some point I had loaned mine out and never gotten it back. Thanks so much for writing it. Now I need to find out if you know any more about Vest and the Squatter’s Cabin! Best wishes. Keep us posted. The book is a great gift item also to anyone interested in history.


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